Wednesday, January 07, 2009

1/7/09: Force of Evil (1977)

A good deal of the nearly 400 DVDs in my unseen collection are TV movies from the 1970s. These were the films I grew up watching, and I get a perverse, nostalgic kick watching them 30 years later. Today's choice was random, although I did deliberately choose a TV thriller from that decade. Force of Evil contains all of the elements I look for in a movie of this type: revenge, murder, suspense and people forced to take the law into their own hands. (The archetype of this genre is 1973's irresistible Outrage, starring Robert Culp as a guy whose family is being terrorized by no-good punks.)

Force of Evil is about Yale Carrington (Lloyd Bridges), a doctor who's visited by a hospital employee he helped send to jail years before on a rape and murder rap. Now on parole, the sinister Teddy Jakes is back to get revenge against the doctor, his wife and pretty daughter, played by former Brady Bunch star Eve Plumb. Very Bad Things start to happen when Jakes is around, but as always, the law's hands are tied because there's no hard evidence against him. The movie is basically a made-for-TV carbon copy of Cape Fear—it even cribs the earlier movie's famous houseboat climax.

William Watson, a hulking badass with a grotesque grin and an evil glint in his eye, is perfectly cast as the villain, but the movie goes off the rails in its third act when things go from implausible to ridiculous. Still, it was a fun ride until the last 15 minutes. With Lloyd Bridges, William Watson, Pat Crowley, John Anderson and Eve Plumb. Rating: 3/5.

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